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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Vietnam talks progress

Vietnam talks progress

Phnom Penh and Hanoi have agreed on a framework to decide the future of ethnic

Vietnamese in Cambodia and for settling border disputes.

The deal was

made during a three-day visit by Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Manh Cam to

Phnom Penh last week, which was seen as laying the groundwork for Prime Minister

Vo Van Kiet to follow next month.

. Cam and Foreign Minister Prince Norodom

Sirivudh decided in principle to set up "a mechanism at expert and government

levels" to resolve all outstanding issues.

Earlier Cam had agreed to

look into the border and immigrant issues separately, reversing Vietnam's

earlier insistence that the two be dealt with together.

The minister

said that the two countries were expected to sign agreements on mutual

cooperation in trade and commerce and education, science and culture during

Kiet's visit.

Both foreign ministers claimed that major progress had

been made during the talks with the signing of a memorandum of understanding

between the Foreign Ministries of the two countries, under which they will meet

at least once a year to discuss bilateral, regional and international

issues.

Refuting the recent Khmer Rouge claim that there are four million

illegal ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia, Cam said the figure was "exaggerated."

He added: "According to our estimates, the number does not exceed

100,000," he said. Independent analysts put the figure at 200,000 to

500,000.

The two sides also discussed the contentious issue of ethnic

Vietnamese who fled Cambodia after Khmer Rouge massacres and are now living in

border camps.

"We are confident the Cambodian government will take

measures to alleviate their suffering," he said. He put their numbers at 4,000

to 5,000.

Many of them hold Cambodian identity cards and speak fluent

Khmer. "They have lived in Cambodia for a long time, and their problems should

be solved," Cam said.

Cambodia does not yet have an immigration law, and

this has left the issue of citizenship unresolved so far. "First Prime Minister

Norodom Ranariddh has assured me that the immigration law will conform to

international standards," Cam said.

Earlier Prince Sirivudh called for a

"non-racial solution" to the immigrant issue, saying it would be solved through

legislation and would cover all foreigners in the country. "We are not the Khmer

Rouge," he added.

Apart from Prince Sirivudh, Cam held talks with Prime

Ministers Ranariddh and Hun Sen and acting head of state Chea Sim. He also

invited King Sihanouk to Hanoi once he recovers from treatment for cancer in

Beijing.

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